Web Ride: 2011 KTM 350 SX-F

Riding Impression Preview

By Jimmy Lewis/Dirt Rider magazine, Photography by Jesse Ziegler

Dirt Rider was out today to get the first ride on the 2011 KTM 350 SX-F, one of the most talked about machines of the decade. By going rogue and ignoring the rules, or guidelines, KTM has once again built a bike that fit into the need, seemingly answering a question a lot of riders have asked and no one has answered. Until now.

The 350 is just that, a 350. Smack-dab in the middle of where current 250Fs and 450Fs are. It is like that in weight feel (245 pounds, full of gas) and in power. A great place for the vast majority of riders who need more than a 250F has and not as much as a 450F offers.

Is this going to be the key to KTM's motocross success? From our first impression we can say they are on the right track for an all-new system for the company. The benefit? The bikes are claimed to be less picky from track to track and it has allowed KTM to play around more with chassis flex.

The bike has grunt and torque, and it is a fast 350, or a slow 450 in speed. Unless you rev it, then it is like a fast 450. How? Well, it gets traction. And because it is hooking up it isn't spinning and it is going forward fast. And when we say rev, we mean it, the thing sings to 13,000 RPM and we were hard pressed to use all the juice or hit the rev limiter, if there is one.

The bike feels a lot more like a 250F than a 450 in weight. It is much lighter feeling when you are not revving it and there is very little compression braking. So in some aspects the bike also acts like a 250cc two-stroke with a really long power spread. The FI was flawless.

Handling is in a whole new arena for KTM, credit the linkage for some of that. Gone is any harshness transmitted in the chassis and now it seems the suspension gets away with a stiffer initial and less wallowly feel while not bugging the rider. On a smoother Pala Raceway track we felt the setting was on the softer overall side as we did get some bottoming, but the track was also fast and easy to over-jump on. Turning was good and predictable but will take more tracks to come to a final verdict.

The rest of the package was typical KTM solid and would make anyone happy. We'll have a test bike in our possession very soon to get more laps and more information coming your way. But it is pretty obvious KTM is filling a pretty sizable gap in the motocross market, one that a lot of us didn't realize was so big. This might just be the perfect size motocross bike for the real world.

And no, the off-road version is not avaliable yet...

2011 KTM Dealer Show Videos:

By Jimmy Lewis/Dirt Rider magazine
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